by Dr. Jerry Johnson
CKNB Collegiate Ministry Specialist
"Don't You Just Love Christmas?"
The holidays are often joyous & happy occasions filled with tradition & fond memories of families and friends. Ideally, the Christmas holidays commemorate the birth of Jesus. The advent of Christ coming to the world to live among us serves as the perfect example. His death on the cross for the sins of humanity is given as the perfect sacrifice. His resurrection from the dead comes as the ultimate revelation of His Lordship.
But the Christmas holidays have also been adopted as a secular family holiday by people of all faiths. This season is marked by an exchange of gifts as well as excitement for the arrival of Santa Claus and other assorted holiday symbols like Frosty the Snowman, the Nutcracker, Elf-on-the-Shelf, and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Christmas celebrations, tree lightings, parades, feasts and musicals commemorate the season. Families and friends, businesses, churches, schools and civic organizations gather for music, food, and parties, in addition to Christian presentations of the nativity. The holiday season presents a whole variety of glamoured up versions of Christmas as well as watered down alternatives to the true meaning of Christmas. While most look forward to this season, others dread the Christmas season, in part due to what the Grinch describes as “the noise, noise, noise, noise” of the holidays. “There’s one thing I hate,” he says, “it’s the noise, noise, noise, noise!” Finding the sacredness amid the frivolousness is difficult and distracting. Sorting through all this noise to the real meaning of Christmas is difficult for all of us.
"Where'd That Christmas Feeling Go?"
The end of the semester and holiday season is often particularly hard for college students. For some, problems in their families of origin and the dysfunction of their homelife has them dreading going home. As they look around at all the happy families with their seemingly picture- perfect gatherings, the holidays seem a cold reminder of the sadness and loneliness which characterizes their homelife.
Some students will go, for the first time, to a home without both a mom and a dad. A surprising amount of couples agree to stick together "until the kids move out and go off to college." Most of these marriages have failed years earlier but the kids ignored or downplayed the signs. And now these students are faced with the harsh reality of parents who have apparently agreed to “tough it out until the kids move out.” The empty nest has been taken as a chance to reset. Parents sometimes feel they have done their job by providing somewhat of a stable household for their children to grow up in. Many students wonder what they could have done to hold the home together. They feel powerless, set adrift without an anchor or rudder. Once you leave home, it is never the same. For these students, this truth is multiplied.
"What Happened Here?"
For all students, coming back home is never the same. Many have not anticipated this reality and are homesick for the homes they once knew. They can’t wait to get back home. Some haven’t found a strong community at college. Many have unrealistic expectations of home being like it has always been. Students get a pretty big shock when they get back home and younger siblings have taken over their rooms. When mom moves all of her sewing supplies into your bedroom or dad has made your room into a workout room or home office, you are caught off guard. Much of this discord is an unavoidable part of the growing up /moving out process. Most parents have tried to prepare their child for this part of becoming an adult. And yet the reality is often quite emotional for both parents and students.
"I Just Need Some Stability"
The peace of Christ and the family of a local church interacts with these needs. When a student goes off to college, the church can be there to offer a new family. When a student needs a listening ear or wisdom in negotiating these new waters, older members of the church can give insight, wisdom, experience and perspective.
Jesus never leaves us or forsakes us. When all of our world seems in chaos, He is the anchor which will hold. The family of God has the remedy to much of the angst students are feeling. Students need the hospitality, understanding, and empathy found in Christ and His church. We can be there to make Christ known and find ways to communicate genuine love and compassion as students walk these tough times. Churches who take the opportunity to meet needs in times of crisis often find their efforts produce eternal impact.
Reach out to a college aged student this season. You might not realize some of the very real difficulties students are facing. Someone willing to go out of their way can be the first step to another’s salvation. We have the light of the world, the bread of life, the living water. Let us be faithful in sharing this incredible gift.
"Two are better than one because they have a good return for their hard work. If either should fall, one can pick up the other. But how miserable are those who fall and don't have a companion to help them up! Also, if two lie down together, they can stay warm. But how can anyone stay warm alone?" Ecclesiastes 4:9-11
Contact Jerry to explore ways you and your church might have a greater impact with college aged young adults in your area and on local campuses: UK, the various campuses of BCTC, Midway, Georgetown, Centre, Transylvania, Sullivan, Asbury…